Tuesday 29 March: What little there is of Cairns beach is not only muddy and unappealing but Box Jellyfish, Bull Sharks and Estuarine Crocodiles all lurk menacingly beneath the murky waves. The solution is a popular man-made salt-water lagoon on the pleasant wide grassy esplanade designed for joggers and keep-fit enthusiasts. My comfortable room in the YHA, just opposite the station shopping mall, overlooks the hostel's tropical courtyard and clover-leaf shaped pool, nice.
Wednesday 30: I take a day trip on Kuranda Scenic Railway and the journey proves to be better than the destination. There are great views back to Cairns, forward to Stoney Creek Bridge and downward to Barron Falls. The locomotive is hand-painted with a colourful Carpet Snake and Kuranda's little station is pretty too but the town is a disappointing tourist trap of shops and other expensive 'attractions' - cuddle a Koala anyone?
Thursday 31: Masked Lapwings and Cockatoos inhabit the waterfront esplanade which, after a few miles, leads to Cairns Botanic Gardens, northeast of the city. These are great and Friends of the Gardens volunteer Norma gives us a fascinating tour of the flora. There are giant bamboos, ancient cycadaceae and platinum ferns from Queensland, large green-striped pods on a Central American cacao tree, an impossible to climb spiky-barked tree and a caroline ivory-nut tree, both from South America. The ivory-nut tree from Peru has a proliferation of beautiful snake-skin like fruit about the size of a plumb with a stone, which when carved, is a good imitation of ivory. The big hard fruit of the tropical American cannonball tree give it it's name while an ivy-like plant nearby has a name impossible to remember. Also in bloom are pretty six-petaled flame-like apocynaceae and several heliconia, one with a little Sunbird probing for nectar, all looking incredibly artificial. But, stranger still is the intricate bloom of the Southeast Asian white bat plant and some of the flowering plants in the fern house - thanks Norma. I finish my day watching gold-fish racing in The Woolshed.
Friday 1 April: Walking along the Botanic Garden's Rainforest Boardwalk of ferns, palms, figs and lilys the paperbark trees are, to me, the most striking. I end my time in Cairns in the Blue Sky Brewery where beer samplers are served in six-glass paddles - smoked wheat beer, stout, smooth cider, wheat beer, creamy India pale ale and a pilsner - all delicious so several pints follow.
Photos of Cairns.